Supreme Court Redistricting Decision in Bartlett v. Strickland: Statement of J. Gerald Hebert, Campaign Legal Center Executive Director
The decision is disappointing and seems to open the door to still more packing of minority voters into fewer districts so as to minimize the number of political races their votes will impact and thus diluting their political voice. It remains to be seen how this decision will influence the next round of redistricting and we will hope for the best. But it seems highly unlikely that this decision will not be harnessed for political gain at the expense of minority voters when district lines are redrawn following the 2010 census.
As our brief to the Court pointed out, the opportunity for, and incidence of, vote dilution does not begin at a threshold percentage. Instead, the brief argues, identifying violations of Section 2 and creating remedies for such violations should be governed by an "opportunity to elect" standard, which would analyze multiple local factors, including the geographic distribution of racial groups, and patterns of racially polarized voting and crossover voting.
When faced with the practical applications of this decision, many will find it hard to argue with the dissent of Justice Souter predicting a sad legacy:
…the plurality has eliminated the protection of Section 2 for the districts that best vindicate the goals of the statute, and has done all it can to force the States to perpetuate racially concentrated districts, the quintessential manifestations of race consciousness in American politics.
To read the amicus brief of the Campaign Legal Center in support of petitioners, click here.
To read the decision, click here.